Throwing Faith Away
These are amongst the most pastorally difficult verses in the Bible. But they have a divine purpose. The writer is shocking his readers so they do not shipwreck their faith in Jesus (1 Timothy 1:18-20). The verses are full of potent words; absolute and not relative; definitive and not conditional. The word 'impossible' grabs our attention first. It represents a point of no return: if true believers throw their faith away, what hope can they have (John 6:68)? This passage refers to true believers, or at least those who have started with Jesus, having received the Word with joy (Matthew 13:20); those who have received the Holy Spirit, sampled God's Word, and experienced His awesome power in their lives … delighting in the hope of heaven and shuddering at the reality of hell.
This may ring alarm bells for many of us: that is intended. Have we irreversibly turned away? Have we committed the unforgivable sin (Matthew 12:31-32)? We must first note that the writer did not consider that his readers had done so - Hebrews 6:9 says, "Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case – the things that have to do with salvation." So, his purpose was not to condemn, but to warn against the route to apostasy which starts by refusing to grow spiritually; also to shred any complacency by challenging the assumption that church members cannot become apostate. It is by persisting to the end that the true saints are revealed (Hebrews 3:14; 6:11).
This is not about believers who sin and repent, or sometimes backslide or cool in relationship to Jesus. It describes a deliberate rebellion, disowning any relationship to the Saviour and despising His sacrifice (Hebrews 3:12). This is not a temporary aberration, but a persistent and determined renunciation of Jesus: a hate-filled conviction that Jesus should be obliterated. And yet the path to that point will start unnoticed, with a refusal to take God's Word seriously. That is why Hebrews urges believers to keep growing (Hebrews 6:1), discarding complacency or laziness (Hebrews 6:12).
Repentance is the way back from sin; the access point of forgiveness (2 Corinthians 7:10). The more we grow, the more we see our sin and the more we repent. The moment we refuse to repent, we start a dangerous journey. So, if you know of sin in your heart, confess it today and repent quickly. If we do not go forward with Jesus we will drift back (Hebrews 2:1). You may be miles from the point of apostasy but do not walk even a little way down its road. But what about those we love whose hearts are so hard? We may never persuade them to repent but we can pray that God will convict them of sin so that they plead for His mercy. So, let us throw off sin and resolutely persevere towards Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2).
© Dr Paul Adams